It seems like with each day that passes, there is a new warning about risks to our privacy and security because of the various ways we use Facebook. In fact, according to a new Consumer Reports warning, you should stop doing 7 things immediately—or risk everything from identity theft to having your child kidnapped.
- So the first warning isn’t so hard to figure out—stop using weak passwords. That is, avoid simple names or words you would find in the dictionary, even with numbers at the end. Instead, use a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, along with numbers or symbols inserted into the middle of words.
- Don’t overlook useful privacy controls—limit access to employers or insurance companies. Also, remove pertinent information such as incriminating or embarrassing photos, as well as your birth date, religious views, and family information. If you must keep this information up, restrict visibility to only close friends and family.
- Don’t post your child’s name in a caption on a photo—this puts both you and your child at risk for child predators or kidnappers. If your friends or family tag your child in a photo, delete it or ask the user to remove the name.
- Don’t mention you’ll be away from home EVER—use common sense here—putting this kind of information on your Facebook page is like putting a sign on your front door that announces “no one’s home”, which is an invitation for burglars.
- Don’t let search engines find you—to help prevent strangers from searching for you and then stalking you on Facebook, make sure the privacy settings are selected for “Only Friends” and make sure the box for public search results isn’t checked.
- Don’t permit youngsters to use Facebook unsupervised—while Facebook does limit members to age 13 and over, this obviously isn’t policed very heavily. If you do have a child or teenager on Facebook, make sure that your email is the contact for their Facebook account. Also, become their friend so that you can monitor their activity. According to Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent for the Internet Crime Complaint Center, “what [children] think is nothing can actually be pretty serious”. For example, a child who posts an update like: “Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes” could be revealing dangerous information that leaves a loophole open for predators. Specifically, if predators can figure out parents’ comings-and-goings, it will be easier to know when to target children left at home alone—even if that’s only a short amount of time each day.
- Don’t use your full birthdate in your profile–this could lead to identity thieves using the information to potentially obtain more information about you, including your credit card or bank accounts.